Closing the Gender Entrepreneurship Gap

 

This is an empowering number and I am proud to be one of the 34,600!

 

I have been part of this number for 25 years. It has not always been an easy ride. Trust me, it is a ride with twists, turns, steep climbs, sweeping descents, sweet victories and buckets of good humour. I am pretty sure that is why I love it so much. (But don’t ask me to ride a roller coaster!)

I like to think that in most things in life I am gender neutral. That entrepreneurs should be supported equally, and yet there is staggering research to indicate that the gender entrepreneurship gap is real. Do you feel that?

As a woman, I had some challenges, including the day the bank manager literally patted me on the head and told me to go back home and to stop dreaming about such a big loan! Needless to say his inability to share my vision was the end of our banking relationship. Taking no for an answer does not come easily to me. Smiling brightly as our sales surpassed our dreams (and his) did!

According to a WESK document called “Closing the Economic Gender Gap”, women are siting funding, lack of knowledge and experience as their barriers to success.

That is something we can do something about!

I am very dedicated to seeing entrepreneurship grow and be a profitable alternative for all women. To me, entrepreneurship is a movement that is not only about women running profitable businesses but also about women being in control of their destiny.

In 2011, an RBC report indicated that the aggregate contribution of women owned businesses in Canada was an estimated $148B. That is how economies get changed! And I want to be at the forefront. How can you close the economic gap and support a woman entrepreneur?

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When to Value Opinion, Data, and Experience

At a meeting with a group of bright, committed senior level executives discussing a critical issue things started to go sideways. The Chair, witnessing the hurdling rail car leaving the track, jumped in saying:

“Thank you everyone for your “opinions” they are very valuable. I would now like to continue the conversation asking those who have had direct “experience” to add their contributions.”

Bam!

It was like switching from Fox News to CNN.

Sometimes opinions are important, but more valid and compelling is experience and data. The switch from “I think” to “ I know” shifted the entire conversation. Avoiding the group think mentality that was becoming very prevalent but was not based on fact or experience and could have resulted in some poor decision making.

Turns out a similar age old adage is rooted in ancient philosophy. It was Socrates who talked of applying a three-fold lens to our conversations. His advice:

“Say what is true, what is kind, and what is helpful.”

In other words, say what you know!

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The Key to Business Communication: Improvise!

I was always good at thinking on my feet.

From a young age I was always the “performer” in my family and would always be putting on a show at family gatherings. So, it was no surprise that when I had the opportunity to join Regina’s premiere improv company, Hitchhikers Improv, that I jumped on the opportunity.

Improv has taught me so much more than how to expressively and humorously get my point across; it has had ripple effects into how I communicate in everyday life too!

Being understood is everything in business and in life. Being at a loss for words can be everything too – and not in a good way! Under communicating, miscommunicating, and over communicating can be a mine field that can affect everything from opportunities, to team morale and especially the bottom line.

But, I have a solution: improvise!

There is one main takeaway I’ve picked up from being on stage that has enhanced my communication skills it is this:

Don’t Listen to Respond, Listen to Understand!

Often during a conversation, we are simply listening to what the other person is saying and waiting to respond and get our message across. We seem to miss the step of “understanding”.

Something I’ve learned from improv, however, is that if you simply listen to respond, the “wants” of your respective characters can go in completely different directions and the scene feels jumbled and without meaning. If you listen to understand , you can fully react to what the person you are communicating with is looking for and how that may fit in with your own ideas which allows the scene, or the business, to run a lot more smoothly.

Along with learning how to listen with intent, learning to improvise has also given me the ability to rapidly think on my feet and trust those around me to carry on the “story” if I draw a blank. That’s how good business teams work too! Knowing when to jump in and knowing when to stand back. It is a creative and intuitive way to be present, and that is just a great way to do business and live life.

I am Braedon McLeod and I am a Story Co. collaborator who sees life as an endless improv opportunity.

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Brand Identity Crisis

I have worked with many companies suffering from a brand identity crisis. It usually does not start with a phone call that says “Hey, Janet can you help us out with our brand identity crisis?”

Generally it’s the bottom line that speaks up first and gets everyone’s attention. Underperforming products, missed targets, and poor launches are all warning signs.

Sometimes it’s noticed in HR where a growing discontent leads to turf wars and the start of a toxic culture.

Generally there is just a deep confusion that feels chaotic, and a sense of being rudderless. People become very busy but the results don’t change.

The natural inclination is to fix what is broken. People look at the micro level, fix, and tweak, but when the results don’t change, it’s a long and drawn out death until capital runs out or clients simply run away.

For those not willing to let that happen they usually need to take on the elephant in the room.

It’s usually brand.

We are not talking about poor font choices  (but don’t pick ugly fonts).

Somewhere along the brand chain something is not aligned; and it can send your company quickly in a downward spiral.

Ask the following five questions and see how your brand stacks up:

  1. What are your corporate values? Do you live them everyday with your team, with your clients? Don’t think this is just the light fluffy stuff. This is the core of success. Don’t settle here for words that sound good but don’t mean anything. Your values should light you up, and everyone you work with everyday.

  2. Do your corporate values show up in how you answer your phone, send an email, or do a presentation? Can you see it and hear it? Can you pinpoint and say “Yup, that is us. Nobody does it like us.”

  3. Do your values resonate with your clients? After all, this is all about them. Would your clients recognize your values?

  4. Who is your top customer – today, last year, next year? Can you name them by first name? (You can’t imagine how many companies cannot do this. So if you can’t answer this question you are not alone, but it is not who you want to hang with.)

  5. Are you doing the work, making the products, selling the services that are deeply connected to your corporate values? The struggle is real on this one so don’t just tilt your head and say, “I think so.” Get your sales team together, do the math and see if there is a match with your brand values. You will be glad you did.

There are many aspects about your branding statements that will propel you to success and I will write about more of them. But none of them will be as critical as understanding your core values.

Ignoring branding statements will affect your bottom line.

Embracing branding statements will also affect your bottom line.

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Personal Branding is Not Bragging

Once a term like personal branding becomes a “thing” it becomes a misunderstood “thing”.

The question I hear most is, “Isn’t personal branding just another form of bragging?”  And in our insta-happy, Facebook perfect, selfie world that could certainly be true.

But don’t be fooled.

True personal branding could not be further from bragging.

Personal branding is about finding the best way for you to help others. It is about becoming more of you, not a new you, not an improved you, or a thinner you. It is not you in a red power suit and Louboutins.

It’s about the courage to look deep and say, “This is my set of uncompromising values, this is what I do best, this is what I stand for and stand up for. This is how I am different and like no one else. This is how I can best help you.”

That is powerful, transformative stuff.

Ready to create your personal brand? Click here

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